For many people looking to live on the water they choose a sailing vessel but we were not sure this was the best choice for us. My wife had never sailed before and I was quite good at crashing small sail boats so the thought of wrecking our home did not appeal to me. We know, or at least heard many of those making this same decision, that it is the journey not the destination. While this is a great philosophy and one that many of us would certainly subscribe to, we had to ask, will this apply to us? Since we will be in our 50’s when we start our life on the water, did we want to spend the time learning to properly sail or turn a key and go?
We chose to focus on a motor vessel for a few reasons but weather and currents were the major factors. The range of a sailing vessel is virtually limitless but for us we kept coming back to having the ability to reach speeds in excess of 20 knots if and when needed. The expense of fuel for a motor yacht can be crippling to a budget but the key for us was reminding ourselves that we would be retired and would have no time limitations on how long a journey would take. This meant that we could have a motor yacht and operate it at very low rpms to reduce fuel consumption putting the fuel cost under $300 for a 400 nm trip.
The other major factor in making a decision was where we wanted to travel. We wanted to travel to the Great Lakes and we wanted to travel to the Caribbean. This was the extent of our travel plans. Looking into these routes we found that there were some areas that had limited depths and limited bridge clearances. Coming down the Mississippi River was also an option and we could just travel the Great Loop depending on the bridge clearance of the vessel we choose.
The route planning played a sizable role in our decision. We decided that we did not want to make the trip around Nova Scotia and down the St. Lawrence to the Welland Canal. Why? Because in order to traverse the Welland Canal we found out that you had to have at least three people on board to go up the canal and that in some cases personal leisure vessels had to wait for commercial vessels before they were put through the locks on the St. Lawrence River. This was just a rumor from some forums and we were never able to confirm this. We did know that were not fans of major shipping lanes having been around the Houston Ship Channel for so many years.
We wanted to have a vessel that was large enough to be comfortable with at least 4 adults but small enough to clear the lowest bridge on the canals. The lowest bridge clearance on the Erie Canal is 13 feet so we started our search there. We quickly realized that although the vessels with lower clearance were sleek and stylish that they did not have great visibility, at least for our comfort. We liked the vessels with a fly bridge as this provided better sight distance and gave us additional space for entertaining if needed. Looking at optional routes to the Erie Canal we found a route up the Oswego Canal and then thru the Trent Severn Waterway that had a reported low bridge clearance of 20 feet. Now we just had to find a vessel with a fly bridge and with a maximum bridge clearance of 20 feet.